With the face of the publishing industry changing to a more digital look, most people would expect that rural newspapers would thrive online and use the inexpensive Internet format to deliver local news to all of the area’s residents. But according to KMUW.org, approximately 67 percent of people who live in rural America prefer a printed newspaper over a digital format.
One of the reasons why digital is not popular in rural America could be that cellular and Internet signals are not as prevalent in areas with low population. But it could also be that most people in small town America just like to pick up the local newspaper and read local news. The sharp decline in recent years of rural daily newspapers has allowed for weekly newspapers to take their place. But are weekly newspapers solving the news problem for rural residents?
Rural Weekly Papers Grow Out Of Necessity
With rural and small town populations falling, the advertising revenue that used to be there to support local daily newspapers simply is not available anymore. That has caused many dailies to shut down, and caused a slew of other dailies to turn into weekly papers. But what is most interesting is the notion that in areas such as rural Kansas, there are new weekly newspapers popping up that are trying to do their best to survive.
A Sense Of Community
The attraction of small town America has always been the idea that people like living in a tight-knit community. Large newspapers simply do not focus on local news, but the local residents still want to know what is going on in their community. In this way, the weekly newspaper publisher can take advantage of that feeling of community, while still managing costs and staying in business. Most rural community weekly newspaper publishers know that they will struggle to make any profit at all, but many say they do it because it is something the community needs and appreciates.
According to KansasCity.com, the United States Postal Service has been slashing costs by shutting down the distribution centers that service rural America. Since most rural weekly newspapers get delivered through the mail, the idea of getting a newspaper two or three weeks after the news has happened has caused some people to pass on getting a subscription.
Many rural weekly newspapers have social media pages and websites that offer updated information on a regular basis to the people who want to access their local news online. But as the number of people in rural areas who prefer printed newspapers continues to grow, publishers are finding that slow mail is just one more problem that they must somehow overcome.
Small towns are not going to get the same news coverage that big cities will get and that has caused a gap in rural news coverage. As weekly newspapers attempt to close that gap, the publishers are finding that the small town insistence that there be a printed newspaper for the local population is making staying in business more of a challenge than ever.